ISLAMABAD - The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday revised the election schedule by extending the submission of nomination papers date to March 31.

According to the revised schedule, the scrutiny of nomination papers of the candidates will be carried out from April 1 to 7, while the appeals can be filed against the candidates from April 8 to 10 and will be processed from April 11 to 16. The election date remains May 11.

Earlier, the commission has extended last date for filing nomination papers for 2 days in Balochistan, however after few hours the extension was declared countrywide. The process of filing nomination papers for general elections was kicked off on March 24.

Returning officers in Punjab issued 329 nomination papers for National Assembly seats of the province while 572 nomination papers were issued to contenders for the provincial assembly seats on last Sunday.

Meanwhile, the ECP lifted restrictions on government jobs today, while keeping ban on release of development funds.

According to ECP Additional Secretary Afzal Khan, the restriction was now removed because the ECP had “full faith” in the new caretaker government, adding that the commission believed that all appointments would be made on merit.

Earlier, the ECP had revoked appointments in all the ministries of the country to prevent people from taking political benefits.

A number of appointments were revoked, although several departments had already conducted tests and interviews for the job.

The ECP had also put a ban on announcements of development schemes which was still in place.

The ECP says that announcement of new jobs and development schemes with the elections around the corner are tantamount to pre-poll rigging.

In another related development, the ECP on Thursday directed the Establishment Division to replace chief secretaries of Sindh and Punjab.

The ECP, in its directive, ordered the Establishment Division to replace Sindh Chief Secretary Raja Muhammad Abbas with Nasir Mehmood Khan Khosa, current Punjab chief secretary. It directed that Education and Training Division Federal Secretary Qamaruz Zaman be appointed as the Punjab chief secretary. The ECP directed the Establishment Division to implement the orders immediately.

The electoral body, however, banned postings and transfers of all government officials across the country. An ECP notification says that a ban has also been imposed on the president, caretaker prime minister, chief ministers, governors and their advisors from taking part in election camping and legal action will be taken against all violators.

The ECP announced that its monitoring cell would coordinate with all relevant departments including security agencies for holding free, fair and transparent elections on May 11.